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Holy Mother Church & Contraception

Posted by Joseph on 1 April, 2013

                                           By Sammi Stark

An inability to appreciate the goodness that lies at the root of all church
teachings seems to be a huge factor in the shuffle of Catholic feet away from
the pews. It appears that a great number of baptized Catholics find the
church’s teachings on contraception to be morally repugnant; however, The
Catholic Church, ‘like any good mother, wants what is best for her children’.
Even secular sources seem baffled by the efficacy of Catholic moral teaching
against epidemics like HIV/AIDS(chastity.com). ‘As God’s sun shines on
every human face so His laws knows neither privilege nor exception. Rules
and subjects, crowned and uncrowned, rich and poor and equally subject to
His word…whoever they are’

(Mit brennender Sorge, With burning Concern, 1937 Pope Pius XI).

Contraception Abroad
Chastity.com quotes the British Medical Journal noted that ‘the greater the
percentage of Catholics in any country, the lower the level of HIV/AIDS

‘On the basis of data from the World Health Organization, in Swaziland,
where 42.6 percent have HIV, only 5 percent of the population is Catholic . . .

In South Africa, 22 percent of the population is HIV infected, and only 6
percent is Catholic. In Uganda, with 43 percent of the population Catholic,
the proportion of HIV infected adults is 4 percent. In the Philippines, over 80
percent of the population is Catholic, and only .03 percent of the population
has HIV!’

In the Philippines, the Bishops have consistently condemned contraception
publicly, and until January 2013, there has been no AIDS awareness
programme and only restricted public campaigns of independent ‘family
planning groups’. Apparently, ‘public health officials say they are stumped
by a paradox in the Philippines, where a very low rate of condom use [4
percent] and a very low rate of HIV infection seem to be going hand in hand.’
(New York Times article, Low Rate of AIDS Virus in Philippines Is a Puzzle).

The British Medical Journal concluded that ‘If the Catholic Church is
promoting a message about HIV in those countries, it seems to be working’.
Contraception at Home

Hypothetically, the article author asks parents If they would be willing to
entrust their child’s life to a piece of latex, should they have the opportunity
to be sexually active with a HIV positive person. Would they buy the child a
packet of condoms and then attempt to deliver a convincing abstinence
message? When the question is so close to home, the odds are that ‘every
loving parent would deliver an uncompromised message about abstinence’.
And why would the Church do any less for her children?

Would anybody be willing to take ‘the pill’ if it was known it was a class one
carcinogen? In 2005, the World Health Organisation released a report by the
International Agency for Research on Cancer where it was found that
combined oral contraceptive pills (that contain both estrogen and
progesterone or progestin, a synthetic form of progesterone) increase
mutations within the DNA of breast tissue, thereby leading to an increased
risk of breast cancer. These findings were presented by Dr. Angela
Lanfranchi, a breast surgical oncologist and co-founder of the Breast Cancer
Prevention Institute in Washington D.C in 2010. The surgeon explained that
the extra estrogen received by taking the pill not only encourages excessive
multiplication of breast tissue – usually a normal occurrence in the
menstruation cycle – but, when metabolized, can also directly damage breast
tissue DNA. Because breast tissue remains susceptible to cancer until it
undergoes a stabilizing transformation in the childbearing process, said
Lanfranchi, the pill is particularly dangerous to women who have not yet had
their first child. In 2006 the Mayo Clinic concluded that breast cancer risk
rises 50 percent for women taking oral contraceptives four or more years
before a full-term pregnancy. Even more shocking, Swedish oncologist
Hakan Olsson concluded that pill use before the age of 20 increases a young
woman’s breast cancer risk by more than 1000 percent. ‘It’s like you took this
molotov cocktail of a group one carcinogen and threw it into that young girl’s
breast,’ said Lanfranchi.

Personal Liberty?

Implicit within pro-contraception campaigning is the message that human
beings, most especially those who come from under-developed nations, or
‘poor’ socio-economic milieus, are incapable of self-control. Somehow the
legal system manages to cope with people who cannot control their impulses
to kill, steal and maim: it’s called prison. For those who cannot control their
finances, insolvency follows. But when it comes to matters pertaining to the
bedroom, no responsibility is to be taught or encouraged. The Church, whilst
abundantly aware of human frailty and the subsequent weakness of the will
arising from original sin, has consistently condemned the notion that there
are some peoples who are too stupid to govern their own affairs. Indeed,
‘Liberty, the highest of natural endowments, being the portion only of
intellectual or rational natures, confers on man this dignity – that he… has
power over his actions’ (Liberats, Liberty, Pope Leo XIII). Nonetheless,
Pope Leo XIII warns in Immortale Dei (On the Christian Constitution of
) that ‘liberty which begets a contempt of the most sacred laws of God
[i.e. natural law]… is not liberty so much as license, and is most correctly
styled by St. Augustine [as] the ‘liberty of self-ruin’.

Thus, the consequences of living against the natural law are especially
pronounced in the case of contraception wherein the fruits of the ‘sexual
revolution’ are now rotting on the ground. As Pope Paul VI predicted in
Humanae Vitae (On Human Life) the use of contraceptives would ‘open wide
the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards’
especially among the youth who often need ‘incentives to keep the moral
law’. Going on, he says that ‘a man who grows accustomed to the use of
contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and,
disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a
mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering
her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection’.

Contraception throughout History

Far from being a modern phenomenon, contraception has been widespread
since as early as 1000BC, and reached a zenith in the Roman Empire during
the first three centuries of the Christian era. The Apostles explicitly
mentioned the illicitness of contraception when it forbade the use of ‘potions’
(which were used as contraceptives) or to procure an abortion. The Apostles
remind us that there are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, ‘and there
is a great difference between the two Ways’. Even The early Christian writer
Tertullian points out that the law of Moses ordered strict penalties for causing
the death of an unborn child. ‘If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman
and … there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth
for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot’ (Ex. 21:22–24). And even in Genesis,
Onan was condemned for spilling seed to prevent impregnation of his late
brother’s wife.

St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150- c. 215AD), one among many, taught that:

Marriage in itself merits esteem and the highest approval, for the Lord
wished men to “be fruitful and multiply.” He did not tell them, however, to
act like libertines, nor did He intend them to surrender themselves to pleasure
as though born only to indulge in sexual relations. Let the Educator (Christ)
put us to shame with the word of Ezechiel: ‘Put away your fornications.’
Why, even unreasoning beasts know enough not to mate at certain times. To
indulge in intercourse without intending children is to outrage nature, whom
should take as our instructor (Paedagogues, 2, 10; 95, 3, GCS, 12, 214).

Not only did many of the great theologians address abortion and
contraception, but so did the councils. The Council of Elvira in Spain (305
AD) ruled that if a ‘catechumen should conceive by an adulterer, and should
procure the death of the child, she can be baptized only at the end of her life’
and if she was already a Christian, the Eucharist was to be withheld until
death, because ‘after the act [adultery] she destroys [the child]’ and has thus
‘doubled her crime’. This was restated at the Council of Ancyra (314). None
of the Fathers or councils offer contradictory opinions on contraception or


The first commandment found in the Bible is to ‘increase and multiply, and
fill the earth’; This was not an accoutrement of the ‘Old Law’ that was
rendered obsolete by the ‘New Testament’, for Our Lord desired greatly that
‘the little children … come unto’ Him, ‘for of such is the kingdom of God’
(Mark 10:14). In raising marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament, the church
affirms that ‘amongst the blessings of marriage, the child holds the first
place’ (Casti Connubi, On Christian Marriage, Pope Pius XI).

To those who cry that the Vatican needs to move with the times, it would be
a wise thing to consider that we must enter in at the ‘narrow gate: for wide is
the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are
who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth
to life: and few there are that find it!’ (Matthew 7:13-14). Since the ‘Church
was founded by Jesus Christ to be the loving mother of the whole human
family and minister to its salvation’, she can never cease from witnessing to
the truth of God which heals all and from declaring it’ (Vatican I, Dogmatic
Constitution of the Catholic Church). The mystery of the Church is not a
truth to be confined to the realms of speculative theology. It must be lived’
(Ecclesiam Suum, Pope Paul VI).

*Thanks to Sammi Stark and Daphne McLeod


One Response to “Holy Mother Church & Contraception”

  1. Catriona Atkin said

    Great facts and figures in that article. Useful for Emma too when she gets all the anti-Catholic stuff about AIDS and condoms.

    God bless

    Catriona ________________________________________

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